Essential Oil Bug Repellent: Prevent and Get Rid Of Mosquito Bites For Good

Nothing can ruin a nice evening outdoors like those pesky mosquitoes. The good news is that you can repel and prevent those painful & itchy bites without resorting to harsh chemicals. You can make your own homemade essential oil bug repellent and get rid of those mosquito bites once and for all.

In this post, I’ll share with you the more effective oils (EOs) you can use for your family. I’ll show you how to make your own natural bug spray, and I’ll also give you our family’s essential oil bug repellent recipe.

Don’t let the bugs spoil the fun of family cookouts. By the end of this post, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy the great outdoors worry free.


Check out Safe Essential Oils for Kids, Only at Plant Therapy!

Heads Up: this post contains affiliate links. While I earn a few nickels for every purchase, the information presented here is based on the research and my personal experience/knowledge.

Already Have A Bite?

Perhaps, you’re looking for a mosquito bite remedy that will help get rid of mosquito bites you already have. Not to worry; there a several essential oils (EOs) that can help with that too. Find out which EOs are best for healing those annoying bites and help your family find quick relief. (click here)

Essential Oil Bug Repellent

Promising Research

People have used many different essentials oils as natural mosquito repellents for quite some time. Many of them are now being studied to determine their efficacy as natural bug repellents and measure their ability to help us get rid of mosquito bites.

There are 3 specific oils that may be the most promising according to the research.

Lemon Eucalyptus

A refined version of Lemon Eucalyptus oil is actually registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as an approved natural insect repellent and is endorsed by CDC for use in disease endemic areas. This version is often referred to as oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD(p-menthane-3,8-diol).

For homemade use, we can use Lemon Eucalyptus oil to get a similar benefit. Of course, the pure oil is not registered with the EPA as it does not provide the same long-lasting effects. However, it does possess its own insect repelling properties.

*Note: Lemon Eucalyptus oil is not the same thing as combining lemon and eucalyptus oils. It’s a separate oil on its own (known as Eucalyptus citriodora or Corymbia citriodora).


Citronella is perhaps the most common and popular essential oil bug repellent. I have used this oil for many years with great success, so I can personally attest to the value of citronella. While it’s mostly used to naturally repel mosquitos, it can also offer protection against ticks as well.

Citronella (as well as geranium) can also be burned or diffused around you to help get rid of mosquito bites. However, know that burning/diffusing has only been found to reduce bites by about 50%, which is still pretty good in my book.


According to researchers from Iowa State University, catnip essential oil can be 10 times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. Incidentally, this came from the same team the discovered catnip can also repel cockroaches.

The study only compared one species of mosquitoes, but they believe it can also be effective for all types of mosquitoes. Catnip is also a registered ingredient with the EPA’s skin-applied repellents.

Catnip is not the cheapest of essential oils, so I would suggest buying a premade blend such as Nature’s Shield.

*If you want to dive deeper into the research, check the references at the end of this article.

Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Essential Oils?

If you want to learn even more on essential oils or, check out my interview with their certified aromatherapist, Retha Nesmith.

Listen Here Or Click Your Preferred Podcast Player Below:

The Happy Healthy Family Podcast


Essential Oil Bug Repellent: Follow this easy recipe to create your own DIY natural mosquito spray or lotion. Learn how to make the best homemade bug spray that is kid safe yet strong enough for your next camping trip or outdoor adventure.

The Best Essential Oils For Bugs

While the 3 oils listed above have promising results, that does not discount all the other essential oils that can help protect us from mosquitoes, fleas, and even ticks too.

There are quite a few oils that have bug repelling properties, and you will find many of these essential oils in commercial products both natural and not so natural.

Any of the 20 oils listed below would make nice additions to your own homemade essential oil bug repellent.

Top 20 Essential Oils For Mosquitoes

  1. Basil
  2. Bergamot
  3. Catnip
  4. Cedarwood
  5. Citronella
  6. Clove
  7. Eucalyptus
  8. Geranium
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Lavender
  11. Lemon
  12. Lemon Eucalyptus
  13. Lemongrass
  14. Orange
  15. Patchouli
  16. Peppermint
  17. Pine
  18. Rosemary
  19. Tea Tree
  20. Thyme

Use your favorites:

You can swap out any of the oils in my recipe with your favorite oils from the list above. However, it is a good idea to use a few different oils. Different oils are more effective at deterring different species of biting and flying insects.

For instance, in my recipe, I added citronella & clove because of its ability to repel both mosquitoes and ticks. Lemongrass has been shown to repel annoying house flies and is safe for kids.

I would definitely recommend you use one of the 3 “promising essential oils” (lemon eucalyptus, citronella, or catnip) as your main EO.

Plant Therapy Essential Oils

My Essential Oil Bug Repellent Recipe

40 Drops Citronella
40 Drops Lemongrass
20 Drops Clove
1-2 tsp Vegetable Glycerin
1-2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Witch Hazel
1/2 Cup Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

In a glass spray bottle, (like this one)

  • Add essential oils, glycerin, and vanilla extract.
  • Add Witch Hazel and shake well again
  • Add ACV and shake thoroughly to combine.
  • Spray on clothing and/or skin before heading outside

Make Your Own Essential Oil Bug Repellent:

Key Ingredients

Of course, your essential oils (EOs) are the most important ingredient in your DIY Bug repellent. However, you can’t simply apply the oils directly on your skin.

In fact, you really should never use EOs at full strength as it can trigger severe allergic reactions, burns, or skin irritations. For this reason, you need what is called “a carrier”.

The Carrier

You have a few different options when considering the type of carrier to use. You’ll want to use a different carrier for specific uses. For example oils, such as olive or coconut can be used for homemade lotions, salves.

Bug Cream or Lotion?

If your plan is to create a bug repellent lotion or cream, then use a carrier oil. I would recommend you use an organic soybean oil. This is the first and only time you will ever hear me recommend soybean oil. (I’ll tell you why later) However, any healthy oil in your kitchen should work fine.

Essential Oil Bug Spray

If you would rather create a bug spray, an oil won’t really work for that. Your best bet here is to use Witch Hazel, Vodka, rubbing alcohol, or vinegar.

Why Not Just Add Water?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “oil and water don’t mix”. This is true for essential oils too. You cannot simply add a few drops of oil to water because the oils will not be distributed in the bottle. They will just sit there in one large droplet, and that’s why you want to use one of the liquid carriers above. The oils will mix well with alcohol, vinegar, or witch hazel.

Here’s The Catch

Essential oils are fantastic at repelling bugs. Unfortunately, they are highly volatile and evaporate and/or lose their potency quickly once applied. An oil, by itself, will typically only offer protection for about 20 minutes or so.

Don’t worry. There are a few easy additions to your recipe that will drastically improve the longevity of your essential oil bug repellent.

Vanilla extract and Vegetable Glycerin are two items you probably already have in your kitchen, and they can dramatically improve your homemade bug spray. Simply add a teaspoon of each and the effectiveness increases from 20 minutes up to 6 hours.

Soybean oil has also been shown to improve longevity by another 5-10% as well, which is why I recommended you use it for your homemade creams/lotions earlier. Just make sure you are using a non-GMO soy. (preferably organic)

Essential Oil Bug Repellent: Follow this easy recipe to create your own DIY natural mosquito spray or lotion. Learn how to make the best homemade bug spray that is kid safe yet strong enough for your next camping trip or outdoor adventure.


Using with Children

Most EOs are safe to use with kids when diluted with a carrier. Most experts will tell you never to apply an undiluted oil directly to a child’s skin. It’s a good idea to test your DIY bug spray before applying all over. Apply a small amount to your child’s arm, and wait a few minutes. If no reaction, you are probably good to go.

Use the following oils cautiously with children: eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, and wintergreen.

If you would prefer to use a premade EO blend that is already “Kid Safe”, you can try Shield Me by Plant Therapy. This blend is formulated for kids ages 2-10 and does not contain any oils that we would normally worry about for our young children.


Some EOs can make your skin more sensitive the sunlight. If you’re planning to be outside early or in the middle of the day, I’d omit any of the EOs in the citrus family like lemon, orange, grapefruit, bergamot…etc. However, these should be fine to use at night to help prevent and get rid of mosquito bites.

Always Use Glass

Undiluted essential oils can eat through plastic. When mixing and storing your homemade essential oil bug repellent, always use a dark glass bottle (like this one).

Where to Buy Essential Oils

I have been a Young Living Oil fan for years now, but recently I discovered a new company that offers an equally great product, but for a much lower cost. The name of this company is Plant Therapy. They offer high quality product, and all of their oils go through third party testing to ensure their purity.

Plant Therapy Essential Oils

As an added benefit, they offer FREE SHIPPING to US residents. Not only is it free, but most of their orders come in 2 days. Now, that’s Amazon Prime Fast!









Standard disclaimer:
Remember, I’m simply a Dad. The content presented is for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice.







References/Further Reading

Repellent activity of selected essential oils against Aedes aegypti. – PubMed – NCBI

Fitoterapia. 2007 Jul;78(5):359-64. Epub 2007 Apr 11. Clinical Trial

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Plant-based repellents have been used for generations in traditional practice as a personal protection measure against host-seeking mosquitoes. Knowledge on traditional repellent plants obtained through ethnobotanical studies is a valuable resource for the development of new natural products.

Health & Medical News – Catnip sends mozzies flying – 03/09/2001

ABC Online Index – Science News

Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites. – PubMed – NCBI

Phytother Res. 2005 Apr;19(4):303-9. Clinical Trial; Comparative Study; Controlled Clinical Trial; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET

CHICAGO, August 27 – Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET – the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.

Skin-Applied Repellent Ingredients | US EPA

Active ingredients in EPA-registered insect repellents include catnip oil, oil of citronella, DEET, IR 3535, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and 2-undecanone. Find fact sheets and pesticide regulatory information.


  • What great information! I make an essential oil bug spray for our family as well. We love it!

  • We make our own bug spray too though my very first attempt didn’t smell awesome haha but works wonders!

  • Great informative article! I’ve used citronella for a while, but hadn’t heard of catnip oil. Sounds like it’s worth trying if it’s more effective than DEET.

  • What kind of oils do you use

  • I love using vanilla extract with distilled water and eos for bug spray but, vegetable glycerin is a good idea! And I haven’t used lemon eucalyptus oil before, I bet is smells better than citronella!!

  • So much great information here, thank you Dave! I started looking at mosquitoes in a whole new light after reading several articles that indicate Lyme disease can be spread through mosquito bites (and many other biting insects). Having Lyme myself, I want to do everything I can to prevent it in my children. Definitely saving this article, so I can reference when making a natural mosquito repellent. Thanks again!

  • Rebecca Sally

    I was diagnosed with Lyme disease 5 years ago and was taking Antibiotics and Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drug which seemed to help. However, I still suffer from some of the symptoms. My symptoms have always been chronic fatigue, joint pain, and even neurological problems in controlling hand and leg movements. I am a 54 year old female. the Antibiotics wasn’t really working and I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects, so this year our family doctor started me on Natural Herbal Gardens Lyme disease Herbal mixture, We ordered their Lyme disease herbal treatment after reading alot of positive reviews, i am happy to report with the help of Natural Herbal Garden natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using herbs, my symptoms totally declined over a 8 weeks use of the Natural Herbal Gardens Lyme disease herbal mixture. My Lyme disease is totally reversed!

  • Rebecca Sally

    Their official web page is www . naturalherbalgardens . com this is a herbal store that will be leaving it’s footprint in this world. I’m 54 and have never been this healthier

  • I’ve had the best luck when my DIY bug repellent contains geranium oil, but I love using patchouli oil simply because I love how it smells!

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